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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Chapter Chat: Back to where it all began

Redemptorist Worldwide Chapter | Rome, Italy

November 10, 2009

On Monday, Nov. 9, the 108 General Chapter delegates (the newly elected General Consultor from Spain, Father Alberto Eseverria, having become a chapter delegate), along with the confreres serving as auxiliary staff for the chapter, boarded three buses at 6:30 a.m. and went on a pilgrimage to the Naples area of Italy.

We were celebrating the 277th anniversary of the founding of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer in Scala, Italy. On Nov. 9, 1732, St. Alphonsus Liguori, with a group of companions, left the city of Naples and began the Congregation in Scala.

We went to the city of Pagani, where St. Alphonsus spent his last days and where his sacred relics are present in one of the altars of the beautiful Basilica of St. Alphonsus. The Most Rev. Michael Brehl, our newly elected Superior General, was the main celebrant of a festive Mass. Many of us were amazed to hear him celebrate the Mass and preach in Italian, a language he has not studied. One can only say his willingness to do so was a combination of the grace of the Holy Spirit on his new office, lots of practice over the weekend in reading Italian, and great courage. The confreres in Pagani had organized a superb choir that sang beautiful hymns written by St. Alphonsus.

After the Mass, we boarded our buses again, and headed off to the Shrine of St. Gerard in the village of Materdomini for a celebratory dinner. We had a classic Italian meal with good wine, an antipasto, three different pasta courses, beef, fruit, cake, and coffee. Some confreres might have opened a notch or two on their belts. With the confreres hoping that the chapter will be completed by Saturday, there was lots of good humor and many pictures being taken with friends made over the last weeks.

After dinner, we had time to visit the Shrine of St. Gerard, where his relics are also in the main altar. St. Gerard may well be the most popular of all Redemptorist saints. He is a special patron of pregnant women, and of couples seeking to become pregnant.

This shrine is a great place of devotion in Italy. I have two favorite spots: one is a large room filled with thousands of pictures of babies whose parents have placed the child’s picture in the church out of gratitude to St. Gerard, and the other is large statue of Gerard where pilgrims touch the saint’s foot with a handkerchief.

This custom goes back to a story of the life of St. Gerard. One day he dropped his handkerchief and a young woman sought to give it back to him. He told her to keep it since one day she may need it. Years later, the woman was having a very difficult childbirth and was on the verge of death. She asked for the cloth Gerard had given her. Soon after it was brought to her, she and her newborn baby were restored to health.

We joyful but weary pilgrims returned to the bus for the almost four-hour trip back to the Salesianum. Father Manny Rodriguez carefully counted us to make sure we left no one behind. Most of us skipped the waiting meal and went to our rooms to sleep.

Our regular order of meetings and deliberations begins again Wednesday at 7 a.m.

We thank and give you praise O Lord, for the gift of our Congregation and for watching over us for 277 years!


Father Pat Woods
Provincial Superior
Baltimore Province